Who’s going to foot the bill for the raises law firms have given to associates? Like it or not, clients will. The salary boosts have spread from firm to firm like the flu, from the epicenter, Silicon Valley boutique Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, to law firms around the country.

The new compensation packages — with first-years making up to $140,000 in base pay (plus bonuses, depending on the firm) and senior associates earning base salaries over $200,000 — could cost firms tens of millions of dollars more than they expected to pay associates. And that’s money out of partners’ pockets, unless firms can figure out ways to boost productivity — or pass the additional expense on to clients.

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